Tag Archives: silk

Time and more time

I’m spending my time this week organizing for the upcoming workshops and pulling together teaching samples. There are many and I’m displaying them around the work space.

Also, finishing up a couple of things as inspiration for what one can do with the pieces that will be worked on during the dye and stitch sessions. Here is a bag I just finished with one of them. The exterior is all vintage and the interior lining is recycled. It’s really fun to give cloth a new life and make it into something “new” and useful. Another in the series of “Carry the Moon” bags I have made over time.

I’ve got a few things to clear off the decks today (Saturday) -like a couple shibori ribbon scrap bag orders, the last stragglers of the July moon circle cards, and some computer email communications. If you are reading this and are in any of the August in-studio workshops, you would have received the last details on attending the workshops and have been asked to reply and confirm. About half of you have-THANK YOU! The others have been emailed twice so far with no reply. I will do so once more and cross my fingers! Other than that, I will take time and try to search you out via social media and send you messages there. This all takes time that I really do need for other things… help a girl out and reply to your email confirmations! Thx…

“Other things” include tracking down a FedEx return from France that has been “on the way” for 30 days now! This order seems to have a curse on it. If you recall, I had sadly and mistakenly sent the wrong colors to a customer in France. We resolved the issue by my remaking the correct order and reshipping it while at the same time issuing a return label to have the wrong order returned to me. Package never returned after being picked up by FedEx at the customers location (and this only after several calls to fedex to go get the package). Fedex is now looking for it after weeks of me calling to check on it. Fedex shipping internationally is no joke either ($$$) so not only am I out the ribbon, I have spent hundreds in shipping to get it back. Yikes! It is going to take more time to resolve this and likely not in my favor. I will persist! Never before had a problem like this with FedEx. We shall see…

BUT- in today’s mail, I received these two beautiful embroidered silk moths from an artist in the Ukraine. So delicate and beautiful! I’m working on a piece that involves silk in all its permutations and these will be a lovely addition to it. I came across them through one of my Japanese sericulture contacts on Twitter.

Plus, I will be back to the Japanese American National Museum in early November with a workshop. stay tuned for details!

silk to senninbari

Today I’m preparing the fabrics for July moons. I’m kinda excited again about the cloth for this month’s moons. I enjoy deciding how to delight the moon circle each month. This time I went through my bins and chose a roll of something I’ve been saving and drooling over for YEARS! It’s silk tsumugi. But not just ANY old (and i mean old) silk tsumugi. This is the most lovely, drapey, thin, folk style cloth I’ve ever had the privilege of caretaking. It is completely hand spun and hand woven, undyed or treated in any way. In my mind I see a woman hand twisting the silk thread on her lap inside her small wooden home. It is uneven in places. Maybe she is new to the process or perhaps she knows the character which she imbues into the cloth from the wisdom of her past. But it is just wonderful. The silk floss might be what was left from her first rate cocoons- which were sold off to the local cooperative and sent off to be reeled at the filature mill. Who knows how long ago…I am just imagining here.

The cloth has texture, character, an uneven natural color in places. The warp is very, very fine reeled silk. Dressing a loom with this fine a silk must be an art in itself. There are slubs and tiny spots of darker threads in the weft which seem to me to be from discoloration of the cocoon by the silkworm. I hesitated to cut some of it for moons but I just can’t keep it all to myself. It must be shared. I happily imagine all the things it may be used for by those in the moon circle.

Some time back I did a meter or so of indigo shibori with some of this cloth for a garment. The shibori on the top right of the blog header above is some of that. It took the indigo like a dream!

The other moon this month is a departure of sorts. It’s also on old silk but on the scraps of a great and colorful silk meisen cloth that was one of the kimono pieces I remade with participants of the last Kimono Refashioning workshop. I’m enjoying putting these small bits of cloth in your hands for inspection and wondering.

I enjoy picking a style of moon I think will go with the character of the cloth.

Here I chose a straight forward circle for the meisen silk moon and a partial rough ombre moon for the tsumugi cloth.

I’m also preparing fabrics for the upcoming in studio August workshops. The shibori workshop is sold out with a waiting list. The Thursday August 4th workshop has one opening and the Sunday August 7th has 2 openings. Here is the link if you want to check it out. I spent the better part of today prepping all the vintage fabrics for these projects. I am dyeing the base pieces in the natural vat which is loving the warmer weather these days. I love sorting through all these fabrics and wondering about their past lives as well as imagining their future.
I’m setting up the “alumni reunion” for those that were in either session of the Refashioning Kimono workshops. Look for the date in your email inbox.

I have had several requests for new dates for both the Refashioning Kimono workshop as well as the Komebukuro Treasure Bag workshop. These new sessions will begin in late August and September. Look for dates in the next blog post.

In addition to the moons for the moon circle, I was inspired to do a bunch of these moons. I recently saw some new images of the planet Venus from NASA. Pretty amazing!

new images of the planet Venus

That reminded me of some hand dyed fabric I had bought several years ago in Houston. I used some of it to repair the couch cushions but I had some left over that I used for Venus inspired moons. There wasn’t enough fabric for the monthly moon circles so I just put them into the shop here.

I’ll end this post with a referral once again to the blog Old Photos of Japan and Kjeld’s recent post titled 1930’s Off to War. Another well researched and interesting post about being conscripted and sent off to war in Japan and how it was “celebrated” by the families and the public. It was the first of two times this past month where I came across the term senninbari or thousand person stitches. I had not known about this and it’s another way to honor the cloth and the stitch. He has a wonderful ukiyoe he came across depicting a scene of a kimono clad woman collecting the stitched knots in public at a temple. The images depicting this practice have dots marking the position where the knots are to be stitched much like the kanoko shibori dots that are marked with aobana. A really great post. I hope you go visit his site and support his fantastic work!
He includes this clip of a film with a “song for senninbari as well, Aikoku Senninbari (愛国千人針, Patriotic Thousand Person Stitches), released in 1937 during the Second Sino-Japanese War. In this clip of women collecting stitches on the street, you can hear part of the song as sung by Junko Mikado (三門順子, 1915–1954).

textile detective continued…

Now that the holidays are over, and the sun is back out after some very much needed rain, I’m back to finish off the mystery of the silk fabric from the obi I was deconstructing here.
As you may or may not recall, there was a question as to whether the sateen silk backing of this obi was a cloth woven of silk and paper which would have been very rare. I sent a bit to my friend Velma who makes shifu and she pointed out that she could not detect any “seeds” in the weft threads as she unwove them. The seeds would be where “the strips are joined in one continuous thread by tearing a small tab of paper from the connecting strip above two threads. This tab is rolled in the same direction you intend to spin the thread creating the “seed”. This seed is one of the most notable characteristics of paper thread, and forms a unique pattern in the final woven cloth.” See here for attribution of this explanation and more about shifu.

I too had unwoven a bit more of the weft and looked at it more closely seeing that the fiber did actually look more like a cotton or hemp than paper. I did another burn test on the warp just to make sure and it really did smell like cellulose and not protein fiber-confirmed!

I also received back a reply from the Kyoto Shibori Museum who sent me the following interesting reply:
“It looks like an obi made a long time ago.The Japanese embroidery is very beautiful, and I think it’s hard to see anything like this now. The red stamp part is usually stamped with the weight of the fabric, the name of the manufacturer, the place of origin, etc., but it cannot be identified here. The kanji woven into the silk can be read as KAMI GO. It could be the name of the manufacturer/weaver or the title given to this particular obi.
KAMI means God and GO is the name of an ancient Chinese country. Japanese kimono is also called GOHUKU, but it means the kimono that GO people came to when the shape of the kimono came from China to Japan.

The best guess at a date would be late Meiji- early Showa. So around 100 years old.

I have been wondering what fabric I would use for the January Moon of the Month Circle. To begin the year and the Moon of the Month Circle, I will be sending both moons using this beautiful obi silk lining. Can’t wait to get to the vat and make them!

A couple more projects claimed the workspace in December. first, a not so auspicious
t-shirt quilt I have been threatening/promising to make for my son trevor going on ten years now! When he went off to college and cleaned out his dresser, there were a lot of favorite t-shirts going back even to co-op preschool days. There were memories from music camps, summer camps, marching bands, favorite pokemon,surf and skate brands, and even their own rock band from when they were kids. I had cut out the graphics and backed them with a lightweight fusible and there they sat, stacked and ready to go. Over time he added a few more from college music groups, shinkendo, and Japan. As I cleared out some of the workspace I decided that THIS was the year I would finish it. I spent two days stitching them together, backing, quilting (by machine), and self binding it. Done! It’s a fun ride from preschool through college in addition to being a utilitarian quilt made with recycled fabrics. The first photo he sent me of its use had a big fluffy cat sitting on it- success!

The other project is still ongoing but I think I solved a dilemma that had been plaguing me for a while. I made this piece -a bit of an ode to fabric scraps and stitches and wasn’t sure if or how I wanted to back it. I always like the back of a stitched work-maybe just out of my own curiosity. But this has sat there feeling a bit unfinished and finally it ended up sitting next to some lovely old red lining silk. The jacquard pattern woven into the very very fine red silk are beautiful cranes with florals and vines. This auspicious pattern was probably for a wedding kimono lining or some other important kimono lining. It’s a full bolt but disassembled and stitched back into a continuous length. I decided I didn’t want to cut it to fit the width of my piece- it would ruin the full pattern. So I decided to stitch it into a tube at the proper width to stitch the lining to the back of my piece. This way, should someone ever want to reuse this beautiful silk, all you would have to do would be to unstitch it. Kind of like a kimono. Something from the Amuse Boro Museum rings in my head at times like this.

2015 Asakusa, Japan Amuse Boro Museum
i imagine sericulturist feeding the kaiko, the silkworms spitting this thread, the dyers dying the thread, the pattern designer graphing out the pattern for the loom cards, the weavers weaving… imagine what the silkworm provided!

The sun has come out here and is drying the outdoor workspace after all the rain. The snow has covered our local mountains and the new year begins with this wonderful view and hope for a year of drought recovery. About a million poppy seeds and bachelor buttons have sprouted in every nook and cranny in the backyard!

Case of the textile detective…

Here I have to tell a little of the back story to this old obi. Previously I had blogged about taking Ann Wasserman’s online workshop on quilt repair and restoration (see her blog here). I had found her online while doing some research on the crazy quilt I named Ida Belle. (while I was editing this post, Ann put up a new blog post about her latest repair/conservation quilt-a wool crazy quilt. You can see a video of her talking about it here.) In getting to know Ann a bit via email, we discovered we were quite harmonious when it came to cloth and textiles. Even Jude’s name came up as we were both early enthusiasts of Spirit Cloth (currently in wordlessly watching mode until after the New Year). In our conversations, she mentioned that she had some Japanese silk fabric that had been gifted to her many years ago and that she had no idea what to do with it or even what it was. She sent some images and asked me to look at it.

From the images she sent me, my guess was that it was an obi. It had a couple of areas of highly embroidered florals over some shibori along with large lengths of blank undecorated areas. There was what appeared to be a fold line down the center and the length of the piece indicated that it was an obi. At this point, Ann asked me if I would “adopt” it and do what I thought was best with the piece. I agreed, thinking that it would serve as a nice sample of shibori with beautiful embroidery for future in person workshops (hoping I get back to that eventually!). As you can probably guess, someone like Ann is often given and asked to “adopt” a fair amount of textiles but this one was outside of her particular realm.

When it arrived here, I looked it over and took a few of my own photos. I noticed a couple of things right away. First off, the shibori work is really very sophisticated. It impresses me that way where the the use of dyes fades into the background to give the very subtle feeling of distance. The silk used here is chirimen. Shibori techniques used are kanoko (fawn spot), boshi (capped resist), and makiage (stitched motif). I had a couple of questions so I also sent an email to the director of the Kyoto Shibori Museum. (Their latest youtube video is wonderful!) It’s obvious that the shibori was done with the final embroidery in mind. The embroidery! Wow… very beautiful nihon shishu.
I noticed that this shishu has a fairly high “loft”. I asked another friend, Mary Alice in Houston, who teaches this form of Japanese embroidery (you can find her online here) and she said that sometimes the older versions of this were padded underneath. What I ultimately discovered was that there are two layers of silk stitching (one perpendicular to the other) that provide this padding.


What I conclusively decided was that I would disassemble this obi. I decided this for a couple of reasons. The folding and storage were doing it no favors. Storage to me is “out of sight, out of mind”. I like things to be enjoyed and used. So I began to unstitch this beautifully hand stitched obi…and discover its secrets.

If you attended last week’s Komebukuro Treasure bag workshop “check in /hang out” session, after the questions and progress sharing was over, I shared my obi disassembling project. At the time I was about 3/4 through the unstitching. At that time I shared both the front and the back of the amazing embroidery. The back is also amazing and shows the wonderful and tiny stitches used to couch down the gold leafed silk threads. Goldwork embroidery is done using a core thread (usually silk or cotton) that is wrapped with a fine layer of gold leaf. Couching is the main way this thread is used as (I’m guessing) you wouldn’t want to pass this delicate gold thread through the cloth over and over. Couching is done in any number of colored silk threads for contrast and results depending on the embroiderer’s desired artistic outcome.

SInce that session, I have finished taking this piece apart and and discovered something very wonderful. The back side of the obi seemed a little odd to me. The front side of the fabric was very much a sateen-shiny with lots of long silk floats in the weave. However, the back was very matte and had an odd texture. Looking at it with a jewelers loop it was obvious that the warp and the weft were very different fibers. Unweaving a section of an end was in order! The warp was composed of very many fine silk threads. I carefully removed several rows of the much thicker and dull weft threads and did a burn test. Cellulose for sure. Then there was the issue of the feel of this textile. So papery… so I started searching online. I was slipping down another rabbit hole!

I started by searching for shifu, which is a textile woven of paper threads. My friend Velma sent me search for Susan Byrd who wrote the book A Song of Praise for Shifu – Shifu Sanka as well as made a wonderful video on preparing the thread for weaving. I’ve followed Velma for many years and have been amazed at her work and her blog, Wake Robin. I have sent her a piece to look at and give me her thoughts. After doing some reading it seems that it is likely kinujifu (kinu meaning silk and jifu, the word for shifu-paper cloth- when attached to the word kinu) if the weft thread is in fact paper. I did do a sample moon dyeing and when the fabric was wetting out, it curled up like crazy into a tight curl. I haven’t seen that before…


Even if it doesn’t turn out to be kinujifu, I have learned SO MUCH!

this mark of the weaver was woven into the end of the sateen piece

The center of the obi is a stiff cloth called obi shin. In many old obi the center layer is made of old cloth patched together. In fancier old obi, a special thick woven cotton cloth is used. Now days, manufactured obi shin is widely available and I’m not sure what they are made of. Perhaps cotton, perhaps poly. But over the course of time, I have collected and used a variety of old obi shine. I have made many of the moon bags from them as they have a great texture and character as well as being very sturdy. They were also often discarded and I was finding them at flea markets in Japan so someone was saving them. Part of the problem with storing these old obi with thick obi shin is that in the humidity of Japan, they tend to become damp and don’t dry easily if improperly stored. This collected moisture can easily mildew and stain (sometimes called foxing) the exterior obi fabrics. Such is the case here and there with this obi. I also moon dyed a piece of the obi shin. it dyed beautifully…

As I look at the fabric from this obi (now temporarily rolled onto three large kimono rolls), I think the best thing for the embroidery portions will be to conserve them flat in museum grade glass with UV protection. My thought is to frame the embroidery with a border of the silk/cellulose fabric. It would be great to frame it so the back side of the embroidery is visible. The main embroidery would go to Ann of course and the lesser one I would keep for a workshop sample. It just makes sense to preserve them this way unless anyone here has another idea-I’d love to hear it.

After all this, I am reminded that I have so many talented and knowledgeable friends that share the love and interest in textiles, preservation, and craft. It is truly a bounty of riches created over time!
Now if you have the time and interest- go grab a cuppa and come back to enjoy some of the links and videos noted within. There is a lot to take in!

Don’t forget, there is a new workshop forming for the 2022 Komebukuro Treasure Bags – details here.

Dyeing and social media

Lots of dye work going into the upcoming workshop kit materials. Like this selection of silk linings that were dyed yesterday for the komebukuro kits. Dyed using the indigo fermentation vat and a marigold dyepot for blue and gold linings. Of course I couldn’t resist doing a little bit of green since I had those colors going. I originally thought I would use the pomegranate dyepot but it wasn’t looking as gold as I wanted. So I decided to use it for the drawstrings and cording instead.

Interestingly, the two greens were produced with the same silk and the same dyepost/vat but the order of operations was reversed. Blue over gold and gold over blue (the more olive green) created two completely different greens. A green themed komebukuro was not planned but I might just have to put together fabric for one of those-just so I can use those delicious greens.

I am using some really nice brown linen (acquired somewhere long ago/can’t remember where) for the upper band on the bags. I liked it so much on the brown version I decided to overdye it in indigo for the blue bags. It dyed a very dark/almost black blue. It will make for a nice background for anyone wanting to do sashiko stitching there and a good dark contrast for the indigo bags in general.

The “Fall” weather turned to Summer again today, likely hastening the ginko trees turning to gold. Upper 80’s low 90’s for the next few days. I really can’t wait for the leaf drop. so much beautiful mulch will blanket the garden but a couple of weeks standing under the golden ginko tree is really something to look forward to. I’ve been enjoying the photos posted online of the fall leaves turning from around the world! In Japan, we always enjoyed taking a ride on the skyways, no matter the season. They even have special busses for fall leaf viewing that take you the most beautiful locations.

fall leaf viewing by skyway cable cars in Japan

And of course I’m still working on organza dyeing and pleating. There are two cats that don’t live here (and don’t like each other) constantly trying to vie for the top assistant position.

Captain help on the ironing board with the organza

Also, please give a visit again to the Kyoto Shibori Museum youtube video page and this video. It is beyond describing what they did to accomplish this major piece of shibori.

I am really starting to look ahead to next year’s Silk Study Tour.The 2021 Silk Study Tour to Japan has now been rescheduled for May 11-26 2022. It’s looking promising finally! We are still waiting for Japan to open up to tourists again and to respond to whatever protocols will be in place. It’s so hard to anticipate what they will be, but it does look like we are moving in the right direction. As a reminder, all participants will be required to be fully vaccinated at the time of acceptance into the tour as well as meet all travel restrictions, mandates, and requirements in place by both the US and Japan at the time of travel. I will be sending out the official notice by the end of this month with applications. The way to get on this email list is to sign up here. If you have emailed me and asked me to be put on the list, I have likely directed you to this email signup. (I may have missed a few…) If you had signed up to receive info on the 2021 tour, you will still get the 2022 tour email. you don’t need to sign up again. If you can’t remember or have a new email- DO sign up again. It will filter out duplicates (or tell you you are already on the list).

marigolds from the broth- they smelled good- like flower tea

The Shiborigirl Social Media Report…

As those of you who make a living (partially or completely) by making, teaching, and selling know, social media is a necessary part of what you do (or perhaps need to do more of). I am always in the position of needing to do more of it and really not finding enough time to do it! But if I don’t, sales and signups show it. Maybe you are in that position as well. (Or maybe you are a customer and are worn out from being marketed to!)
Maybe this part of the post won’t be of interest to you but here are my latest thoughts on what it takes to remain viable in the current environment.
keep writing your blog (or get one started now!)
this is the best advice I have to give really. I’ve said this all along and I’ve never stopped. I started in 2006 and have regularly blogged ever since. Yes, there have been some times of lesser blogging (especially during times when I was attending to subscription blogs, teaching or traveling) but this is the best way to stay connected to your circles of interest. A blog is a great timeline and window into what you do in photos, videos and words. It remains there forever and you and readers can reference past posts anytime. My favorite people are from the blog and through their blogs as well. We have some very long term relationships here. I love that people can add my blog to their readers or sign up to receive my posts via email. It’s not filtered by a platform algorithm. I use WordPress and there is really much more it offers than what I can use.
-Have a website (of course) and your own online shop
Make it as simple or as complicated as you want (simple is best for me but still seems complicated!). I have used etsy in the past but never exclusively or even majorly. I’m so glad I no longer use it as the way it has evolved just does not suit me at all. The whole “star seller” thing is atrocious. Your online shop (and even etsy) is just a virtual cash register and you need to lead people to it. Don’t expect any of them to do your marketing for you.
-Have a way to collect email addresses & use this for newsletters!
I’ve used Constant Contact for many years and it’s served me well. There are lots of options on how to do this but I like self sign up lists and have mine on the top right of the blog here. (don’t wear out your subscribers with newsletters though or they might just not read them)
Use Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, TicTok, and the rest as you need or desire to.
I use FB (both a personal page and a studio page). I use Instagram here and there. Most people love IG more than I do. I’m not really a Pinterest person but will use it as a way to point people to my website etc.. I don’t do TicTok currently-just too much for me at the moment although some people use it as their #1 SM site and do it very well. YouTube is also a great resource and I really should do more with it. No matter which platforms you choose, it’s important to engage with your followers and form relationships, to offer good and interesting content. To be giving more than you receive. You do need to understand the relationship of some of these platforms to each other as some don’t play nice with each other (ie FB & Youtube). I use my Twitter mostly for local politics but do have some fascinating people I follow and interact with there- sericultureists around the world, artists, textile museum folks, and others. Some people hate Twitter and Facebook and some love one or the other or both. Maybe one of the most important things I can say about SM platforms is that YOU can curate and control your experience. If you are seeing lots of content you don’t like- then change it!
I haven’t even mentioned “boosting” or placing ads which is an art in and of itself. I dabble in it as I don’t have a lot of $ to spend on it and since my time to fully understand and make the most of it is limited I just do a small amount of it.
Maybe the most difficult thing is to keep up with all the changes and updates to these platforms and how they will affect me and my business. It really is a full time job (that I don’t want) yet don’t have enough time for if I am going to get ANYTHING done in the studio!
Of course Covid plays into all this and did I mention Zoom? I did in the last post and since then I have started doing some Facebook livestreaming on my studio page. After several trials and tribulations I mostly got it working the way I want it to- just giving a quick live video update on what I’m working on. I’m using a 2 camera view with some OBS software (OBS Studio is the one I like) that allows me to show you my work table plus my “talking head”. I do this so i can feel more present with you even though I’m using a virtual platform.
-You can always set up a linktree that you can quickly post here and there when your website isn’t quite what you want. You can also set up various linktrees to serve different purposes. My linktree.

**NOTE** in doing this post I was checking links and found that one of the links in the sidebar which was supposed to be going to my Paypal account was actually going to various random people’s paypal!! Off to fix that now! CHECK YOUR LINKS FROM TIME TO TIME! I reported it to WP and took screenshots but WOW! Sorry to anyone who might have sent $ for the Moonmates series that I didn’t acknowledge!

Overwhelmed yet? I am… now to get back to the studio…

making moons too- some for moon orders and some for the komebukuro bag kits




The other day I met up with some special friends at the botanical garden in the afternoon and went through the butterfly pavilion again.

South coast botanic garden SOAR exhibit

When I returned back home, I was inspired to finish the dyeing and steaming of a set of pieces I’ve been working on.

and the crowd goes wild!

When I look at these, I see you. All of your creativity, your joie de vivre, and your unique voice. Keep singing…

Silk Study Tour to Japan 2022

I’ve been meaning to do this for awhile now and after receiving several inquiries after the recent post I am getting it checked off of my list today. I am including here a new link for those who are interested in receiving the sign up email for the tour which I expect to go out in early June. Here it is!

click the image above to sign up
for the upcoming tour info

The 2021 Silk Study Tour to Japan has now been rescheduled for May 11-26 2022.
Please know that it will be a requirement of the tour to have been fully COVID19 vaccinated in addition to any other health requirements put in place by the Japanese government, the airlines, and our hired bus company. We will strictly adhere to all health requests of the host artisans, museums, hotels, restaurants, shops, and any other places to which we travel.

Hirata san (our Japan-side coordinator and guide) and I have been in frequent communication over the past year and are excited about organizing the upcoming tour. We have a new itinerary that includes some of the past favorites and a few new ones! Prices have not yet been confirmed as all that has to be redone in light of this past year.

Stay tuned! In the meantime, please enjoy some photos and an older blog from past tours. Previous tours occurred in 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2017,and 2019.

Nihon e ikimashou!

in the air…

Lots of thoughts rumbling around here since the last post. This is gonna be a longer post, so settle in.

various tomato seedlings transplanted up and getting a bit of a slow start due to cooler weather but it’s warming up now.

Spring is definitely in the air. And so is hope in many quarters. Spring always is in the very heart of a gardener and I’m no different. Like Spring seasons, life is slowly changing and renewing. Many people are getting vaccinated, getting out and adjusting to what currently is. Just being here is good. In fact, quite wonderful.

Hirata san sends me photos of the beautiful cherry blossoms in Kamakura and I’m having hanami natsukashii (cherry blossom viewing yearnings)…here are a couple to get you in the mood. We have our itinerary for the Silk Study Tour set for 2022 and are looking forward. The photos below show the new cherry trees approaching the Hachimangu shrine. It is just gorgeous with all the trees in bloom! This approach was reworked just a few years ago and is a lovely walk down the center of the main street.

I’ve struggled to post often this past year, instead letting thoughts congregate a bit before getting them written into the ether. That doesn’t mean that they are more clearly expressed with the passage of time, sometimes I think it is quite the opposite! Too many thoughts blend, are forgotten and so on, but today felt right so here we are. Sometimes I take short notes for the blog on my phone to remind me of something I want to write about and sometimes I don’t, letting the thought return like a butterfly to its host plant if it works out that way (speaking of butterflies, the caterpillars of the clouded sulfers have gone somewhere to pupate, I know not where) and the praying mantis oothecae should be hatching any second (haven’t seen the babies yet).

Fresh on my mind right now are my beader friends in the Czech Republic (CR) who write me that they are suffering greatly from their government’s misconduct and irresponsibility in regards to COVID. I felt so sad hearing her description of their situation there. Vaccines are extremely limited, and lockdowns are very strict beyond what science would rationally dictate. People feel stifled and rebellious and somewhat hopeless. They look forward to a new election in October, she says.

“forbidden to move out of our districts, forbidden to work and not compensated, forbidden to socialize, forbidden to breath without a mask even if there is nobody around us in a 100 metres range(328 feet), forbidden to leave our homes between 9pm and 5am… and god knows how long til the end, because the government has literally NO PLAN”

I know she won’t mind my sharing her words here anonymously. I can be so absorbed in my own world here, listening to others broadens my perspective. I love that we have become long distance friends sharing our worlds. At the end of our conversation I shared the music of Joan Armatrading (a long time favorite of mine). I’ve been listening to her music today in the studio after Maura in India (Mustard Seeds Kolkata) featured a song on her FB post this morning.

Seems we lost a number of writers in March, notably Beverly Cleary(104), Norton Juster(91), Larry McMurtry(84), and Marianne Carus(92). My kids and I enjoyed their work and say a fond farewell, having left us with many good reads.

My heart was warmed by a message/conversation received from the mother of a son who credits me with far too much- but as we say, we never know what good a simple act of open-heartedness can give rise to. She credits me with reaching out to him as a young teenager who was struggling greatly and saving his life but it was her perseverance and love that brought him to meet me at a show in Houston (they lived in IN) and to encourage his interest in textiles and art. It is to his credit (and hers) that he graduated with a degree in art and is now teaching art in a HS in CO and just got accepted to grad school. He is out and doing what he loves, being who he is. How can you not love that?

It’s haru basho in sumo right now and today is the final day. We enjoy watching sumo here (I love looking at the silk gyoji costumes with their jaquard weaves and wonderful color combinations) and love watching both the juryo and makuuchi divisions. In a lower division called sandanme one of the rikshi (Hibikiryū) suffered a horrible injury perhaps resulting in paralysis (yet to be determined). The resulting uproar over treatment of rikshi injuries has resumed in sumo and is very justified. If you follow sumo, you know what I am talking about. Japan needs to step up. Tradition is one thing, humane treatment of rikshi is another.

Here in CA people over 50 are eligible for vaccinations April 1 and everyone over 16 is eligible April 15. Some areas have already opened to over 50 and we just received our first vaccination here. We still need #2 in 21 days plus a waiting period but progress is happening and workshops will again begin this summer! I am noticing how it is affecting my mental well being today. I feel inspired and more alive. I hope you are taking advantage of vaccinations in your area so we can all move ahead with safety and more peace of mind. This is a time to consider the future and reinvent many things.

Speaking of the studio, my recent post on the paid blog was quite interesting (apparently only to me-haha) yet I’m not sure if subscribers are reading regularly. Makes me wonder about that path. I won’t be doing this again, methinks. All posts there are password protected unless you subscribe but I thought I would “unprotect” this one to share here. It’s about indigo and madder and what I am making now… moonfire! March moons are all about madder and indigo. Today is the full moon as well as a shop update. Moonrise last night was spectacular here. Are you watching where you are?

I also was listening to a video I came across that resonated with me by George Monbiot who promotes “feeding the world without devouring the planet “. This also applies to textiles and clothing which continue to be a resource problem. As the planet goes, so go we. We survive by walking a fragile line of coexistence with nature. The planet will outlast us surely, but by how much? That is up to us.

In the meantime, I continue to dye. I have been dyeing madder and indigo. On a frustrating note, my aquarium heater in the indigo vat is out of commission again. I think that the high pH just does it in and results in its early death. They seem to last less and less time these days (this one just 5 months). Maybe this is the answer? Pricier than replacing the heater but…less wasteful if it lasts a couple of years. The weather is heating up now (81 degrees today) so a heater for the fermentation vat won’t be needed soon. I have been sorting through old cloth and over-dyeing in both indigo and madder to create some interesting cloth sets for the shop. Moonfire sets are also available there. A little diversion is always fun. I love how madder complements the indigo. I can imagine the projects that will be made from these cloth sets. From my imagination to yours…

and in the end, a look back to an older post.

Focus?

This has been my daily undoing lately. Trying to focus when chaos swirls around me. After spending over a week now with an unruly computer, I now have it back to limping along so will take this moment to write a quick post. I had to wipe the HD and reinstall the OS and all the data from a backup. SO lots of resetting work and getting things back to where they were. Not sure it’s done yet as the same problem popped back up during the resetting so I’m expecting more computer trouble on the horizon. But in the moment it is working…

All the chaos of the last year leaves me wondering where the path even is. In what direction do I head? What purpose can I serve? Does what I do even matter (some days I do wonder about this!) ? Chaos seems to zap away my creative energy…
I know I’m not the only person experiencing this. I’m in good company.

After supporting myself for so long (over 40 years) I wonder-can I still do it? What if I can’t? What might that look like? With clearly 6-12 months more of COVID related challenges ahead of us, in-person workshops and shows are unlikely for the foreseeable future and even then, it won’t be like turning a switch back on. It will take time to rebuild. The planned 2021 Silk Study Tour to Japan is of course, cancelled. We have hopes for 2022 so I will refocus towards that.

Sometimes, focus is a matter of deciding what you are NOT going to do!

So just while I’m writing this the screen froze again. So clearly still having issues. Back to the shop it goes tomorrow. Let’s see if I can get a couple of things into my shop to help things out a bit before it completely dies off(crossing my fingers on this restart!).
I’ve still been keeping myself busy, though not really sure what I should be making! I’ve been shooting videos for the Daily Dyer on using the pleater and how I create the silk organza I use for the flowerwork. Again, I’m backed up on the videos due to the computer problems but hope to get more of them up in the next day.

In the meantime, I added a couple of flowers to the shop. I really love the white ones. Here, I am using pleated and dyed silk batting for the leaves. I think it adds a nice textural contrast to the organza.

I’ve also been doing a bit of indigo dyeing for a garment I want to make. In doing that, I selected and organized some of my indigo fabrics into project packs and added them to the shop. It’s been a while since I put these back into the shop. They are assortments of various silks and cottons dyed in varying shades of indigo. There are also a few packs of solid indigo cotton yardage dyed in the three shades using the fermentation vat.


On a side note, I watched some of the Yoshiko Wada shibori lecture videos and enjoyed seeing the work of the featured shibori artists there. I was reminded that I am really more of a commercial shibori craftsperson. Whenever I am creating, it is with an eye towards selling my work. It needs to be this way for me. So when I am experimenting with an idea, I am always wondering how I can use it in a commercial way. Can I improve the process to a point where it satisfies both my aesthetic goal as well as be manageable in the marketplace. I also realize that in the best tradition of Arimatsu shibori, shibori was a way to create a commercial product for a living! This is part of the shibori challenge for me. While beauty and quality craftsmanship is part of the desired outcome, utility remains key and with a eye towards the commercial aspect. And within that utility was a need to sell the work for a fair price for the handwork. I always admire the Japanese ability to innovate the process with this in mind. While much shibori rises to the level of art now, most who are making shibori these days do so as art or as a hobby, what I do is quite different- I made it my profession. I enjoy the challenge of that.

Another interesting Covid related activity- crafting zooms. A group of gals in California have been getting together to make up some of the items for which I offer free instructions. They order the kit, then make the item during their social zoom, screen sharing my video instructions! They have time to check in with each other while hand stitching their kits and helping each other out if needed. Each month they pick a different project. Great idea! If your group wants to do something similar and you want to invite me to pop into your zoom to answer any questions, let me know!

When my focus starts to fade, I take a trip out to the garden and see what is happening there. RIght now the most inspiring thing is the feathery cassia (Senna artemisioides) whose scent is at its peak. It has a little spicy scent -some days it can remind me of Necco wafers-remember those? The clouded sulfur butterflies flit all around and are laying their eggs there. I can always count on Nature to set me straight.

I really wish I could share the scent!
did you notice the butterfly at the top?

PHEW! Made it through the post without another freezing episode!